The Pinnacle Islands

by: Shaun Appleby

Fri Sep 14, 2012 at 06:26:48 AM EDT

The sweep of history misses the occasional fur-ball like the seven square kilometres of islands central to the current Sino-Japanese naval confrontation over fishery and resource claims by Japan and both Chinas.

There have been a number of activist flag raisings and Coast Guard cutter scrapes among the three claimants to these isolated, uninhabited islands in the East China Sea.  It's a puzzle and there are American fingerprints on whatever ambiguity underlies the dispute, unfortunately, considering the Potsdam Declaration, the Japanese Instrument of Surrender and the United States post-war civil administration of the Ryukyu Islands.

Shaun Appleby :: The Pinnacle Islands
The US is basically committed to backing Japan's claim, having tacitly handed them as "Ryuku islands" back to Japanese control in 1972.  But the Chinese claim also arises through US international agreements.  The Potsdam Declaration while not a treaty was co-authored by Chiang Kai-shek and stated, "Japanese sovereignty shall be limited to the islands of Honshū, Hokkaidō, Kyūshū, Shikoku and such minor islands as we determine."  This leads us for further clarification to the Cairo Communique of December, 1943:

It is [the Three Great Allies'] purpose that Japan shall be stripped of all the islands in the Pacific which she has seized or occupied since the beginning of the first World War in 1914, and that all the territories Japan has stolen from the Chinese, such as Manchuria, Formosa, and The Pescadores, shall be restored to the Republic of China. Japan will also be expelled from all other territories which she has taken by violence and greed.

Cairo Communique National Diet Library

The Potsdam Declaration, but not the earlier Cairo Communique, is clearly cited in the Japanese Instrument of Surrender.  China, who claims them historically, theoretically ceded them along with the Pescadores and Taiwan under the Treaty of Shimonoseki after defeat in the First Sino-Japanese war of 1895.

So you pick.  If you wondered recently why China started building an aircraft carrier these maritime and territorial contests with her coastal and island neighbours are probably your answer; imperial China was comprehensively mugged by various naval and colonial powers in the course of her decline.  

Sooner or later the People's Navy is not going to show up with a flotilla of fisheries enforcement vessels; probably around the time a populist nationalism starts to preoccupy their middle class.  Japan also is showing symptoms of nationalist activism and one of the government's justifications for buying the remaining privately-owned islands and provoking this "incident" is to keep them out of the busy hands of their nationalistic political opponents for everybody's sake.

Curiously, the People's Republic of China supports the claim of the Republic of China in their de facto role as the provincial authority of Taiwan, then claims national sovereignty over them in turn; to be true to their Reagan-era policies one supposes the Right should be supporting Taiwan's claim against all comers.

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Thanks for helping me learn stuff. (2.00 / 3)
I really enjoy reading your thoughts on almost everything.

So this post got me thinking (I'm sure you can smell it in Oz) about how long, short periods are. For example, we nuked Japan less than a century ago and we're friends now. Wow. Isn't that sort of a mini mind fuck right there?  

Just because they are posting on a progressive site doesn't make them progressives. - John Allen

Thanks (2.00 / 3)
I enjoy the threads that connect modern events to the worlds that existed decades ago.  Over a century ago Great Britain and Japan disrupted the balance of power in Europe with a strong naval alliance which arguably weakened Russia and precipitated the Great War; fifty years later the resurgent Soviet Union forced Japan and her conquerors to quickly close ranks.  The motives and forethought of Churchill and FDR in 1943 were constrained by the tumultuous world they were navigating at the time and are judged as such; still the law of unforeseen consequences applies, "You can change things but you rarely control how they change."

It seems to give modern politics and foreign affairs a more subtle flavour.  What would you suggest to resolve this dispute?

[ Parent ]
I agree with Spacey. (2.00 / 3)
Not sure what would resolve this particular dispute, but the point you make is that life and politics are more complex than the soundbites and campaign slogans imply. That simplistic views like Crazy Eyes "Sharia! Sharia" whazername and Penile Palin tout are asinine from first principles.

That I can buy off on wholesale.  

John Askren - "Never get into a pissing match with a skunk."

[ Parent ]
Well... (2.00 / 3)
I can't resist.  Firstly, if I were a reckless, Right-wing troublemaker I would insist that they be returned to US civil administration by default and right of conquest; and I'm sure that there would be plenty of precedent and justification for that which would seem to make sense once amplified by their infamous Wurlitzer playing the soundtrack to Wake Island.  It's right out of their playbook, a position so extreme and convoluted that by the time you finish arguing against it you are exhausted and backing Japan with force seems moderation.

Secondly, though, there is a trap here for neoconservatives.  Reagan-era wisdom would have them supporting Taiwan's claim, yet that puts them, at least partly, on the side of, in this instance, the very crafty People's Republic.  And as much as they bloviate about the threat of China their business cohort isn't quite so sure.  So they basically have to back Japan's play, along with the Obama administration.

A cautionary note, however, this clearly manufactured controversy has two countries swirling in nationalistic rhetoric; Chinese are calling for the boycott of Japanese goods and Japanese are having a resurgent bushido moment led by a serious contender for national government.  The dynamics of this are ominous but more socially at this point than diplomatically; that China would back down was pretty much a given.  But as I said in the diary someday they probably won't and it will be a carrier task force instead of fisheries protection vessels; backing Japan may only postpone that while giving China's rapid naval expansion a popular raison d'etre.

Given that China's claim, and by that I mean the Republic of China's, has some merit and that some in China and Japan are using this to rattle their respective katanas I wonder about a Solomon's sword solution that might give all three claimants a share of the resources in adjacent seas with Taiwan as custodian; something along the lines of the administration of modern Antarctica.  If each party had a veto on others' economic and military development it might not turn out too badly and at least get them meeting with each other rather than throwing jingoistic torchlight parades.

[ Parent ]
Appleby for Ambassador. (2.00 / 2)
See? At least I didn't curse you with President...

John Askren - "Never get into a pissing match with a skunk."

[ Parent ]
Ugliness (2.00 / 3)
Worth clicking through to read the whole thing if one wants to get a taste of what a populist, aggressive China might be like and how imminent:

In Beijing, a cordon of paramilitary anti-riot police prevented the mob from reaching the embassy, but did not intervene as the protesters chanted slogans and hurled objects.

"Return our islands! Japanese devils get out!" some shouted. One held up a sign reading: "For the respect of the motherland, we must go to war with Japan."

Malcolm Moore - Anti-Japan protests erupt in dozens of Chinese cities in disputed islands row Telegraph 15 Sep 12

Given their historical enmity and past grievances this could be an increasingly convenient issue to inflame for political factions in both countries.

If we really want to get fair (2.00 / 1)
we should reanimate Homo Erectus and give the whole world back them.
Damn Homo Sapiens Sapiens usurpers...

John Askren - "Never get into a pissing match with a skunk."

[ Parent ]
I Was a Bit Hasty... (2.00 / 2)
Assuming the US would back Japan's claim.  The 1971 Japan-US Ryukyu Islands Reversion Agreement left sovereignty unresolved:

During Senate ratification of the Reversion Agreement, the United States specified that the agreement did not affect the determination of sovereignty over disputed islands. The US Department of State continues to take no position on the sovereignty of the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands.

Daniel Dzurek - The Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands Dispute IBRU Durham University 18 Oct 96

The Obama administration is rather hoping the whole thing will just go away, as it has in the past:

"I'm pretty frank with people: I don't think that we'd allow the U.S. to get dragged into a conflict over fish, or over a rock," said a senior U.S. military official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss deliberations within the Obama administration.

Craig Whitlock - Panetta to urge China and Japan to tone down dispute over islands Washington Post 16 Sep 12

Given the rabble rousing by China's state-run media which has resulted in six days of protests and some violence, however, I see a twofold parallel with Germany's populist naval movement at the beginning of the last century; it conjures an external nationalistic threat that distracts an otherwise restive population and increases willingness to accept increased burdens of taxation.  If the Chinese start a Naval League and contribute to naval vessel construction by public subscription the analogy would be even more apt.

Hmm... (2.00 / 2)
Seems nearly precipitating a war is a way of wriggling out of having an election:

The influential Chinese tabloid, the Global Times, published by the Communist Party mouthpiece People's Daily, said backing off was not an option for China.

"China should be confident about strategically overwhelming Japan," it wrote, saying the Chinese military should "increase their preparation and intensify their deterrence" against Japan.

"China will not shy away if Japan chooses to resort to its military."

Earlier, Al Jazeera's Ortigas said the protests may have been encouraged to distract Chinese citizens from their domestic concerns.

"There have been accusations of corruption," she said.

"There has also been widespread unrest socially in China from what we understand. At the same time, there have been questions about the smoothness of the leadership transition, which is in the works for the end of this year."

Anti-Japan protests spread in China Al Jazeera 16 Sep 12

This is straight out of the playbook of the Second Reich for those who skipped history class to hang out on the quad.

[ Parent ]
SecDef Panetta: (2.00 / 3)
"I am concerned that when these countries engage in provocations of one kind or another over these various islands, that it raises the possibility that a misjudgment on one side or the other could result in violence, and could result in conflict," Mr Panetta said, when asked about a clash between Japan and China.

"And that conflict would then have the potential of expanding."

Earth is the best vacation place for advanced clowns. --Gary Busey

Seems to Me... (2.00 / 3)
The Obama administration "woke up" when it was clear the state-run media in China was going to grab this with both hands and shake it; historically speaking the long term chances of this ending well are not promising:


[ Parent ]
There's nothing good about this. (2.00 / 4)
China so badly needs to distract its people that internal issues can become external real quick.

I caution everyone involved to watch their trigger fingers. The US will protect Japan, have no doubt about that, and for all Beijing may rather have external enemies to distract its people from the failure of their own bureaucracy any conflict between us will show they are in no way able to bluff our call.  

John Askren - "Never get into a pissing match with a skunk."

[ Parent ]
hmm (2.00 / 2)
TOKYO, Sept. 24 (Xinhua) -- Two Chinese surveillance vessels entered waters near the "Senkaku Islands" (Diaoyu Island and affiliated islets) early Monday morning, the Japan Coast Guard said.

The Japanese government has set up a countermeasures team at the prime minister's office following the arrival of the Haijian 66 and Haijian 46.

Earth is the best vacation place for advanced clowns. --Gary Busey

According to China... (2.00 / 2)
There should be a large flotilla of Chinese fishing vessels about to arrive yet but so far no word on them.

[ Parent ]
Steady at the helm Mr. Sulu... (2.00 / 2)

John Askren - "Never get into a pissing match with a skunk."

[ Parent ]

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